Finding Belonging

Ijeoma Nwaogu
3. Thrive IN® - Finding Belonging


Welcome to Thrive IN™ and greetings from Houston, Texas. This is Dr. IJ, your College Life Coach. Thrive IN™ is a life coaching podcast for college students. And believe me, you’re in the right place if you’re serious about becoming the highest and truest version of yourself while making the most of your time in college. This is session number three.


And for this session, we’re talking about fitting in versus finding belonging. You know, when you’re in college, you’re going to be around all sorts of people and you’re going to have this essential need from the beginning to even feel the sense of belonging. It’s a very natural and common experience for us to want to have a group of peers to do life with, to study with, to eat with, to talk about issues with, to party with. You know, you just want to have a group of friends that you trust that you can be yourself around or you could just enjoy their company. But in trying to find this group of friends, some may identify a group that they want to be a part of. And they try to fit in with that particular group.


Now, fitting in may involve them chipping away good parts of who they are because they don’t think that those parts of who they are will be accepted by this group they’re trying to find belonging in. And so you’ll see that people change the way they naturally do things. For example, change the way they talk, change the way they dress, change the way they do their hair, change their personality. All in efforts to try to fit in with a group that would not have accepted them otherwise.


But my goal for you is to find belonging on campus. And the way I differentiate finding belonging from fitting in is that it’s the opposite of fitting in. When you’re looking for belonging, you’re looking for a place where you can come as you are, just as you are. You’re full, authentic self. Space where you don’t have to change the good parts of who you are. You don’t have to change the diverse parts, the unique parts of who you are. When you find belonging with people who accept you just as you are, it’s a liberating and empowering experience. Because, when someone is showing you that you are valuable, you are worthy, and you don’t have to change who you are in order to be accepted, it really gives you the confidence to be creative. It gives you the confidence to share your personality, gives you the confidence to speak up and say things that you otherwise wouldn’t have said if you weren’t in this situation you felt comfortable in. And when you find belonging, it’s much more life-giving and energizing and even calming to your spirit versus being in a situation where you’re trying to fit in. When you’re trying to fit in, you’re working too hard to be something that you’re not.


It’s a draining experience and it’s riddled with fear and shame and trying to “act normal” in that group. And if you end up falling in this situation where you’re trying to fit in, it might be because you’re not too sure about who you are and you haven’t yet identified that you are valuable, you are worthy, and there’s nothing wrong with who you are. Just because one particular group may not see your worth and see your value doesn’t mean that you are not valuable. You are absolutely valuable. And the secret is to find that group of people who accept you just as you are because it’s not worth it to try to fit in with a group that probably wouldn’t even last long. Because how long would you keep up with the act of trying to be something that you’re not? Trying to appease other people, trying to please them so that they could “accept you?” And that’s not real acceptance. Real acceptance means you come as you are. You are just yourself. You’re nurturing the good parts of you and you are being accepted.


Oftentimes people find a sense of belonging in groups where other people look like them. For example, black people spending time with other black people, Hispanic people spending time with other Hispanic people, white people spending time with other white people. And, you know, commonality does help people to connect. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about regardless if you’re a part of a diverse group and you are all different, it’s all about acceptance. Finding belonging is not necessarily about being with people who are similar to you. Yes, that is something that does happen. However, it’s about finding people who accept you, even if they are different from you.


What I want for you is to not try to fit in. It’s a natural thing that happens on campus is a natural thing that happens when you’re a college student. But I want you to be aware of that now so that you could work to deliberately unlearn this idea of wanting to fit in and instead find belonging. In the long run, it’s going to pay off. You’re going to have healthier, more mature, more meaningful friendships that have the potential to last longer than those relationships that you would have forged through the fitting in process. And, you know, I just want the. For you, while you are in college and I want you in situations that have love in it vs. the sense of fear of trying to act normal. And I want you to be in situations where you feel more secure about yourself in a group vs. feeling insecure about yourself in a group that you’re trying to fit into.


So here are some tips that you can take with you as you try to find belonging as a college student. One thing is just don’t give energy to people who don’t give positive energy back to you. If you’re in a group that you’re trying to fit into, a clue to know that you need to flee from that situation is if people are not paying attention to you or giving you the attention that you deserve or they’re just treating you as if you don’t even exist in that group or that you need to do something in order for them to accept you.


Like if people are giving you that sort of energy, it’s time to leave that group and find other people who will accept you just as you are. One way to attract people who will accept you for who you are is to be yourself. Once you are brave enough to step out into your authentic self, you attract people who are willing to accept you just as you are and who find value and worth in you and who want to be your friend.


This is really important in finding this sense of belonging because it even impacts your health. If you’re busy trying to fit in, you put a lot of stress on your body, whether you’re aware of it or not. Oftentimes we are not even aware of the type of stress we place on our bodies because of the emotional turmoil we put ourselves through. And then it could certainly have this cumulative effect, this build-up effect of affecting our health and our bodies in ways that we can not afford to be ill. So even for your overall well-being, your health, I want you to be emotionally well, and part of being emotionally well is to flee from those situations where you’re trying to fit in and nourish those relationships with people who accept you just as you are.


Overall, I want you to be your authentic self. You are valuable. You are enough, you are worthy. And there are a group of people out there on the college campus who will accept you just as you are and flee from those who are making you conform to their ways or who are not accepting you as they should. And think about your health. Think about your overall well-being. Those things are very important in order to thrive as a college student and all aspects of your life. And I want you to be brave in being yourself. It’s totally worth it. Don’t give energy to those people who do not get good energy back to you.


So that’s all I wanted to share with you today. So feel free to connect with me on collegelifecoach.info. That’s my website. On that Web site, you’ll find loads of exciting resources for you. If you gained a few good pointers from this session, make sure you like this podcast, rate it and review it so that more people will be able to find this podcast.


Feel free to send me a message on topics you’d like me to speak about, and I’d like to know your thoughts on this topic that we’ve talked about fitting in and belonging. I’d love to hear your stories. Feel free to drop me a message to let me know. I encourage you to follow and like me on social media at the handle @drijclc, that stands for Dr. IJ College Life Coach and I’m wishing you the best week and join me for the next episode. Love you.

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